Over the last decade-plus, I've produced dozens and dozens of events. Business conferences, charity events, dance parties, musician showcases, pop-up shops, runway shows, and sporting events. All types.
When I decided to pursue Localeur, one of the reasons was because I grew tired of being in the events space professionally. Don't get me wrong, I love the space. I am friends with some of the most impressive event planners and party throwers in America, not only here in Austin, but also in New York and L.A., but personally I was exhausted. It's not the late nights or the tight deadlines or the demanding partnerships that exhausted me but the interaction with people who measured me solely through the prism of whether or not I showed up to their event because they showed up to mine.
I hate the transactional nature of events that a lot of people in the industry have. "I helped you land this sponsor, so you have to help me land a sponsor" or "I showed up for that one party you threw last month so you have to come to my event this week." I know this isn't true for everyone who hosts events; a lot of people are super cool with it whether you can make it or not and they don't measure your friendship on if you showed up or not, which I appreciate.
But I do know some people who almost everytime I see them they ask me "why weren't you at the XYZ event" or "why didn't you come support me at ABC". Over the last 6 months I've just about completely removed this type of person from my life.
Ninety-eight percent of life is just showing up, I do believe that. But that doesn't mean events. Sometimes it means showing up emotionally or showing up with empathy and understanding or showing up and supporting something you say is important to you, which is something I try to do with my actions and my wallet for nonprofits like AIDS Services of Austin and KLRU along with a multitude of Kickstarter projects (most recently Emily Wolfe's campaign and the Billion Dollar Bully documentary on Yelp). I also try very hard to see as many of my artists friends, be it at their art galleries in New York or their musical performances here in Austin or on their e-commerce sites when they get launched.
Measuring friendship off whether or not I attend an event is a very very quick way to lose me as a friend.
It reminds me of the people I went to middle and high school with who measured my "Blackness" off whether or not I only listened to "Black people music" (nevermind the fact that rock music counts guys like Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix as its legends) or whether or not I exclusively dated Black women (nevermind the fact that Barack Obama himself has a white mother) or whether or not I voted with the NAACP on every issue (nevermind that voting for one party only for a sustained period is a very likely way to be taken for granted as an organization over time in a two-party system).
Reading Michael Eric Dyson's essay on Cornel West reminded me of these people. The people like Dr. West who try so hard to own Blackness that they lose sight of the unity that is actually more important than the division these people create to elevate themselves. The acronym OREO was applied to me as a youth to mean I was Black on the outside and white on the inside, and sadly a lot of the Black kids who called me this want to be my Facebook friend now because they think I'll give them a job someday.
It also reminds me of the Tea Party Republicans. Those Republicans who won't tolerate so much as a single opinion or vote that runs in contrary to their own views to create fear that those people should be labeled RINOs or Republican in Name Only.
People who measure friendship off event attendance, people who choose to describe others as RINOs or OREOs...it's really the same thing. People I no longer care to associate myself with.